Written by Elyssa Goldberg
Move over challah and brioche. The French toasts that have captured our imaginations recently don’t just go doughy, airy, and big on the toppings and stuffings. They take the sweetest, most decadent comfort food in the pastry basket—and French toast that. Here are just a few examples of ones we’ve loved.
Chocolate Babka French Toast at Russ & Daughters Cafe, New York
Russ & Daughters made its name dishing out exceptional smoked and cured fish. So we were pleasantly surprised when Russ & Daughters Cafeopened in 2014 and had a small but mighty section to satisfy a sweet tooth that included halvah ice cream, noodle kugel, and chocolate babka French toast.
While the jury’s still out on whether a chocolatey babka dipped in egg and firmed up on a griddle qualifies as dessert or brunch, there’s one thing we do know for certain: Chocolate babka French toast is absolutely what heaven tastes like. And if we kept babka at home, that’s the first thing we’d do with it. In fact, that’s exactly what we did with this babkallah.
Cinnamon Roll French Toast at M. Henry, Chicago
Waiting two hours to be seated for weekend brunch at M. Henry in Andersonville is worth it. The bakery-cafe serves comfort food primed to soak up any remnants of the previous night’s escapades. But sift through the menu’s chilaquiles and crepes, and you’ll find the house-baked cinnamon roll French toast. If that sounds like a gut bomb waiting to happen, it absolutely is. But it’s one that you should welcome with open arms, while you’re chewing on crunchy granola and savoring warm fruits bathed in vanilla neufchâtel creme. And thank your lucky stars that you’re just eating cinnamon roll French toast, rather than the B.A.M. at C&M Cafe, a cinnamon roll French toast bacon, egg, and cheese.
Panettone French Toast at Santina, New York
Nothing says Christmas and New Year’s in Italy quite like a fresh loaf of panettone. Dotted with raisins and candied fruits, the sweet bread is a treat for special occasions—and one that disappears basically as soon as it’s on the table. The same was true of the panettone French toast we ate at Santina. Served in gigantic chunks alongside bananas and orange marmalade, and topped with powdered sugar, the French toast—like the rest of the menu—is surprisingly breezy and light, the tang and bitterness from the marmalade cutting through the crispy, sweet, fruit-filled bread.
The lesson here is that all breads and bready pastries deserved to be French toasted—and we’re open to any and all riffs. Including, but not limited to: banana bread French toast, like the one at Capitol Cider in Seattle, and croissant French toast (looking at you, Loló in San Francisco). While we’re at it, may we suggest swapping out standard bread for some of the pretzel variety to egg and griddle this weekend? You can thank us for solving the eternal sweet-or-savory brunch dilemma later.